Friday 18 January 2019

Imperial rule

Kayf Blanco has Cheltenham-related form for Sandown run as Fehily looks sound pick

Kayf Blanco got to within four and three-quarters of a length of the Champion Hurdlebound Brain Power. Pic: racingpost.com
Kayf Blanco got to within four and three-quarters of a length of the Champion Hurdlebound Brain Power. Pic: racingpost.com

The Imperial Cup has attracted a smaller than usual field at Sandown tomorrow with just 13 horses going to post and Tony Martin opting against running a couple of his fancied string.

Nicky Henderson's Fixe Le Kap tops the weights and the betting at 5/1 as the leading trainer looks to warm up for the Cheltenham Festival by claiming this valuable pot. However, it is a horse called Kayf Blanco, who has some Cheltenham-related form, that is picked to score.

The eight-year-old was last seen finishing fifth behind Supreme Novices' Hurdle fancy Ballyandy in the competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

Now Kayf Blanco is fitted with a tongue tie and a hood for the first time and those applications could just prove to be perfect timing for the 10/1 shot who also has notable form with Champion Hurdle contender Brian Power.

Back in December, Kayf Blanco finished just under four lengths behind Brain Power, who is now around 6/1 for the Champion Hurdle, and Kayf Blanco on that occasion was just in receipt of 5lbs from the winner so a repeat of that effort would definitely be good enough to land a prize like this, given the opposition that have turned up.

One of the interesting markets at the Cheltenham Festival is the one to be leading jockey over the four days.

It is no surprise to see that Ruby Walsh is favourite and although he is on the drift, you would struggle to make a case of taking him on.

Although it may not be as clear cut as in previous years, if you can get a market that has a bet without Walsh, there may be some value to be found. It's hard to believe that Richard Johnson, the clear champion jockey for two years now without AP McCoy around, is as big as 12/1, twice the price of Noel Fehily, Mark Walsh and Bryan Cooper.

Mark Walsh has to have a chance now with the likes of Yanworth, Cantlow, More Of That, Jer's Girl and Jezki as some of his more notable bookings but if I was to pick one without Ruby, Fehily looks the choice.

He will ride two apparent bankers in Neon Wolf and Unowhatimeanharry and that is a good starting point, not to mention the other rides he will have for McManus and Harry Fry during the week.

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